KATY DIAMOND HAMER: As a female collective, you have joined forces and make work that is not necessarily intended for a gallery setting but rather a visual sound board if you will, for sharing a message and being part of a particular platform. Can you say more about what Femin
ism means to you both and how it may or may not have been influenced by your cultural backgrounds?
ANNA CEEH & IV TOSHAIN: We are femin
ists and not feminists. We believe feminism became too rigid and inflexible, too ideological. Look at our current Logo: IN is italic, so it is inclined – same as our artistic actions and modes, which often tilt out of the norm. ISM stands for ideology, always a strike-through, [demonstrating] our critical standing, [similarly to the concept of] Dadaism. The TC is scripted and stands for our names Toshain/ Ceeh used as a way to make fun of Trademark. Exhibiting in common gallery spaces and making art “products” is a somewhat obsolete praxis, so we have moved out of the white cube and explore new venues, contents, and communication strategies. Basically we think beyond feminism as we classify it as contaminated and outdated sociopolitical structure based on borderlands. One has to break through its sound barrier [or limitations] in order to come closer to the vision of a coherent gender or “Fluidity of the Future” (to quote Slava Mogutin a NY based artist). We want to open up space for the NEW and believe this is possible – so imagine, every time we see the word feminism written correctly, we think it is false. Where is the strike-through ism?!?!
That said, the achievements of feminism is an important topic and marker for both of us as female artists who migrated from Eastern Europe to Vienna. Our respective motherland is both Russia and Bulgaria and we started our solo art careers in Vienna and Central Europe in the early 2000s having to establish ourselves here as foreign women and female artists. This was not an easy task!
KDH: Semantics and the playfulness of words and language seem to be a big part of this project and your working together. Are there any other artists, such as Lawrence Weiner, who have influenced this aesthetic and didactic choice?
AC & IT: Yes, when we came to Vienna, we couldn’t miss his immanent public presence at Flackturm. Also Barbara Kruger [is an influence], but artists are not the only inspiration source for us, it is the streets, mainstream, fashion, youth and pop cultures, as well as language itself as code, a visual semantic structure (we communicate constantly in 4 languages). References or important names are: Walter Benjamin, Juri Lotman, Mikhain Bachtin, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Derrida, but also Stuart Hall.
KDH: How would you say that the posters you are making and spray-painting around Vienna, contend with street art? Is there a high/low brow element to your work? Who is the intended audience?
AC & IT: We would just say that in making all posters unique pieces, we are hijacking the mainstream advertising sector and its standardized, norms/ sales strategies, and at the same time winking at the intellectual realm of fine arts especially painting. Every single poster has been manually coated with a luminescent MOLOTOW_Spray or painted with luminescent pigment color from Ukraine. [It may] sounds crazy – to make 4000 unique works, which will soon disappear, leaving no trace, pasted over or just thrown away. The value turns out not to be in the technique, nor its exclusivity or capitalist product character, but it is manly in the message, the slogans are immaterial, they will remain in people brains and go viral.
The connection to street art and graffiti itself is a guerilla [tactic] and [refers to] the subversive elements in our work. But what is street art? It is just a label, we do something completely different using similar tools. Feminism is no longer feminism, street art is no longer street art, and democracy is no longer democracy. People need to create new vocabulary, new names, new [meaning].
KDH: The layout and visual DIY quality of the posters will attract a certain viewer while others may never notice. Is that the intention?
TC: It’s not really DIY in this case as we are artists and paint posters, making them glow in the dark, refusing to paint pictures instead. That’s a statement. They may be overlooked, but the message remains black and white, everyone can recognize it. We use Pop Art and common advertising strategies , while our artwork aesthetic language remains by intention, clearly minimal. Feminism is the discourse in which we were initially interested but now are expanding our scope of action and therefore we’ve added seven new logos. So in a way we are a collective duo with seven names –including among others: XXXXX
ism, FUCK ism, FEMIN ism. We define ourselves as an ideology/institutional critical collective. There are many topics that concerns us, femin ism is just one part of it.
KDH: Women artists have always been underrepresented within the visibility of the art world. The current project has some impressive names involved including new works by Marina Abramovic, Linda Bilda and Siggi Hofer among others. Was it a challenge to get these artists involved? In what way did they offer/agree to participate?
AC & IT: We know these artists personally and have worked with many of them on other projects. On the other hand, we did not ask for a work of art in the traditional sense. The artists were thrilled about this unconventional way of communicating directly with viewers, [in this case] involving the whole city, from the suburbs to the center! A kind of Art-Discourse-Pop- Guerrilla Activism with glow-in-the-dark messages! Many of the artists dealt with this task for months as it is not as easy to write a slogan as some might think.
KDH: Do you see this project and others, being limited to Vienna, Austria, and Europe, or do you see it as expanding globally? Having the readers of Eyes Towards the Dove now aware of what you are doing, will hopefully spread the word internationally.
AC & IT: The project’s concept is based on no limits and no boundaries. At this point we want to say that we will widen up our scope of action – for the next stage of the project we intend to make an open call and invite the “ordinary” people out there to get involved, no artists. Now we want to hear what they want to say – their personal message against any ism and any ideology. We can do this concept in Vienna, London, Arizona, Sofia, St Petersburg wherever we want to!
KDH: Thank you both for your time! I look forward to future projects….oh, and can I have one of the t- shirts to wear in New York?
AC & IT: Sure, send us your address! We will look forward to seeing a self-portrait of you wearing it on social media, let’s make it viral!
The FEMINismTC Art-Label was founded by Iv Toshain and Anna Ceeh in 2012 (*Vienna – Sofia – St. Petersburg). It takes a critical stance toward ideologies and is a base for institutional critique activities. It defines itself as a post-socialist post activist modular perpetual motion machine, which operates both on the level of discourse and performance. At the intersection of pop-cultural semantics, art theory, activism, and contemporary art, it serves as a platform for well-planned public operations/ interventions in the form of solo actions or in cooperation with international artists.